Xinhua Commentary: Strategic vision needed to navigate through headwinds in Aussie-China relations

SYDNEY, Nov. 3– Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will make his maiden visit to China on Nov. 4-7, the first by an Australian leader since 2016.. Following years of strained relations, Albanese’s China visit provides an opportunity to reset ties amid a complex global landscape. Students from the Chinese mainland accounted for 25 percent of some 620,000…

SYDNEY, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will make his maiden visit to China on Nov. 4-7, the first by an Australian leader since 2016.

Following years of strained relations, Albanese’s China visit provides an opportunity to reset ties amid a complex global landscape.

The soured relations have caused significant disruptions to normal bilateral interactions and cooperation. However, both sides have made joint efforts to improve relations during the past few months. Positive interactions across several fields demonstrate a willingness to find common ground and manage differences.

Looking back at the past half-century, a healthy and stable relationship has always been in the mutual interest of both sides. The two-way trade volume has surged from less than 100 million U.S. dollars in 1972, when the two countries established diplomatic relations, to over 220 billion U.S. dollars in 2022. Students from the Chinese mainland accounted for 25 percent of some 620,000 international students in Australia last year, ranking first.

The two countries also share broad prospects for cooperation in emerging areas such as energy transition and climate change. Albanese has announced that the leaders would discuss economic and climate cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. He will also attend the 2023 China International Import Expo, a trade promotion platform widely attended by businesses worldwide.

Still, there’s a long way to go before relations warm up. Imprudent Australian actions regarding Taiwan and hawkish perceptions of China indicate that China-Australia relations still face challenges.

Lessons can be drawn from the history. Albanese’s visit will also mark the 50th anniversary of the first visit to China by an Australian prime minister, Gough Whitlam, in 1973. Whitlam’s efforts to promote the establishment of diplomatic ties with China broke through the distrust toward China in some Western countries at that time.

“Gough Whitlam’s strategic, respectful, informed and independent approach to diplomacy established a new place for Australia in the World,” said a commemorative article from the Sydney-based Whitlam Institute.

Since being elected last year, Albanese has made progress in stabilizing China ties. However, achieving a more stable and long-term relationship requires a strategic vision and political determination.

For Australia, it is always a better option to maintain strategic independence and avoid taking sides between the United States and China. Acting as a pawn of others will eventually harm its own interests.

A lot is riding on Albanese’s visit to China. Enditem